More than 11,000 scientists warned this week that the world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society.
The statement, published in the journal BioScience on the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference, held in Geneva in 1979.
According to international news reports: “The statement was a collaboration of dozens of scientists and endorsed by further 11,000 from 153 nations.
“The scientists say the urgent changes needed include ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction and slashing meat eating.”
The statement: “We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” it states. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”
The clear warning – there is no time to lose.
“The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”
The Guardian reports: “Professor William Ripple, of Oregon State University and the lead author of the statement, said he was driven to initiate it by the increase in extreme weather he was seeing.
“A key aim of the warning is to set out a full range of ‘vital sign”’ indicators of the causes and effects of climate breakdown, rather than only carbon emissions and surface temperature rise.
Co-author Thomas Newsome, of the University of Sydney said: “A broader set of indicators should be monitored, including human population growth, meat consumption, tree-cover loss, energy consumption, fossil-fuel subsidies and annual economic losses to extreme weather events.”
Other “profoundly troubling signs from human activities” selected by the scientists iinclude booming air passenger numbers and world GDP growth. “The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle,” they said.
“As a result of these human activities, there are “especially disturbing” trends of increasing land and ocean temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather events, the scientists said:
“Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have have largely failed to address this predicament. Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable.
“We urge widespread use of the vital signs [to] allow policymakers and the public to understand the magnitude of the crisis, realign priorities and track progress.”
“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to look at the graphs and know things are going wrong,” said Newsome. “But it is not too late.”
The report continued: “The scientists identify some encouraging signs, including decreasing global birth rates, increasing solar and wind power and fossil fuel divestment. Rates of forest destruction in the Amazon had also been falling until a recent increase under new president Jair Bolsonaro.”
They set out a series of urgently needed actions, including strong carbon taxes to cut fossil fuel use, with a call to stabilise global population – currently growing by 200,000 people a day.
Other urgent measures include using energy “far more efficiently”, with an urgent call to “end the destruction of nature and restore forests and mangroves to absorb CO2.
They are also pushing for a global diet change by urging people to “eat mostly plants and less meat, and reduce food waste”. And last but not least they called for economic goals to be shifted away from GDP growth.
Collectively, they say: ““The good news is that such transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual,.
“The recent surge of concern was encouraging,” they added.
The alliance of scientists, led by William Ripple and Christopher Wolf of Oregon State University in the United States, said the climate crisis is “accelerating faster” than most researchers expected.
“Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have generally conducted business as usual and have largely failed to address this predicament,” they wrote.
“Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points and nature’s reinforcing feedbacks (atmospheric, marine, and terrestrial) that could lead to a catastrophic ‘hothouse Earth’, well beyond the control of humans.”
“As the Alliance of World Scientists, we stand ready to assist decision-makers in a just transition to a sustainable and equitable future,” the paper concludes, adding that humanity should “act to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home”.
Even though some of the effects of climate change are already evident, Thomas Newsome, one of the authors of the report said there is still time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to “hopefully change the trajectory of the graphical indicators”.
In the interim, Newsome added: “Small individual changes that people make in their day-to-day lives, such as reducing meat consumption, reducing air travel and using renewable enerfy sources are going to make ‘larger scale impact.
“It’s also going to influence policy makers, business communities and governments to really start taking the much bigger steps that are needed at a global scale to tackle this problem of climate change,” he added.
“All of the indicators in our paper are heading in the wrong direction and we are clear in advocating for global action against – what we are calling – a climate emergency.”
The warning came the day after US President Donald Trump started the process to withdraw Washington’s participation in the landmark Paris climate accord, which seeks “to fight climate change by mutual reductions in climate emissions”.
“Washington presented its withdrawal letter to the United Nations on Monday, the first possible date under the accord negotiated by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, making the world’s largest economy the sole outlier from the agreement.
“But Chinese President Xi Jinping and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, declared on Wednesday that the Paris climate pact is'”irreversible’, the report added.
“Key powers expressed regret and concern after Trump went ahead with the pullout despite mounting evidence of the reality and effect of climate change.
“Ttheir firm support for the Paris accord which they consider as an irreversible process and a compass for strong action on climate.”
- Top Feature Photo:Different raising up left fists protest against climate change, Image by Brilliant Eye, iStock